DP FICTION #50A: “Why Aren’t Millennials Continuing Traditional Worship of the Elder Dark?” by Matt Dovey

In a generational shift that some claim threatens the fabric of existence and the sanity of all humanity, surveys show that worship of the Elder Dark is at a record low for one particular group—millennials.

Bob Rawlins is worried. “When I was growing up in the 1950s, I made my obeisance before the Manifold Insanity every night, uttering the invocations to satiate the Watchers Just Beyond and keep them at bay for one day longer. But young people now aren’t prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.”

I remind him that human sacrifice was deemed unnecessary and illegal in 1985, and animal sacrifice in 2009.

“Well I don’t mean literally,” he says, though there’s a note of longing to his tone.

Bob is showing me round his inner sanctum, a converted basement given over to the worship and appeasement of the Unknowable Gods. He’s the Grand Dark Supplicant of his local chapter, and is continuing a long family tradition: men of his bloodline have been bound to the service of the Elder Dark since the days of the Pilgrims.

“Our ranks are already thin,” he says, resting a hand intimately on an idol of the Ten Thousand Staring Eyes. “I worry the world I’ll leave behind will be overrun by the gibbering horrors of the between spaces, ushering in a never-ending age of nightmares and insurmountable monstrosities. It breaks my heart to think of the Eight Palms golf course getting swallowed by a roiling pit of blackness. Hole five’s a real beauty.”

In town, I talk with a group of twenty-somethings working in the local coffee shop. Aren’t they anxious about the impending immolation of mankind and the eternal night of the Elder Dark?

“Well, I guess,” says Luiz, shaking chocolate onto my cappuccino in a cephalopodan design. “But it’s hard to get worked up about such a distant prospect when I’m mostly worried about making rent next month.”

“Yeah, yeah,” agrees Deema, another barista. “And even if I had the brainspace to worry, I haven’t got the roomspace in my apartment for a shrine. I make my obeisance when I visit my parents at the weekend, but my apartment’s so cramped the shower’s in the kitchen. Where am I meant to find the space for the Eighteen Forms of Frozen Madness?”

“Not that I have any time for the complete incantations anyway,” says Luiz. “As soon as I finish here I start a shift at the Midnight Dark Bar on 8th. Do you know how much mess is made by people burying the futility of their infinitesimal existence in drugs and debauchery? By the time I get home from cleaning that up I’ve only got five hours before I’m back here. It’s hard to muster the energy for self-flagellation on four hours’ sleep a night.”

These responses may sound cynical and resigned, but talking to Luiz and Deema, there’s a sense of frustration: they want to be doing more. But some millennials have other reasons for abandoning the worship of the Elder Dark.

“These old dudes—and they’re always old dudes, you notice that?—they’re all caught up in this spiel, like, ‘If you don’t perform the rituals of devotion then the world will fall to lunacy’, and I’m like, dude, look around already!”

Ace shakes their long dreads dismissively and sips a green tea, looking over the gray ocean from their dilapidated RV. Their parents were members of the ultra-orthodox Church of the Nineteenth Insanity; Ace left home at seventeen, sent on their mission to witness the madness of the wider world. It was meant to reinforce the importance of keeping to the convoluted strictures of the Nineteenth Insanity, necessary to resist the influence of the Watchers Just Beyond.

But instead, says Ace, they saw only human madness.

“Like, all the suffering and hurt and injustice, that’s not coming from beyond the Pierced Veil, ya know? It’s caused by politicians and corporations on this side! People are blind to the roots of their problems, blaming it all on these creatures they’ve never even seen, right?”

“It’s sad to hear,” says Kathy Halton, Honorary Senator for the Sunken State of Hggibbia. “I represent the Many Drowned Dead, so I know better than most what the cost of failure is.”

Senator Halton looks up at the huge oil-on-canvas that hangs behind her mahogany desk, The Sinking of Dead Men’s Deeds, that infamous night when eighty thousand souls were lost to the sea. The eye is drawn irresistibly to the dark slash that hangs in the sky, the Pierced Veil itself, and the indescribable creatures of the Entropic Menagerie that spill forth—and it is surely an unparalleled artistic feat to paint a creature that cannot be described—and there is a strange sensation of being drawn into the painting, as if the soul itself is being pulled out through the eyes and reeled into that perversely dark hole on the canvas. Only Halton’s smooth voice breaks the spell; she seems used to the painting, immune to its attraction.

“Some people are so desperate for a mundane explanation they’ll ignore the evidence of their souls,” she says. “The irony is many of this country’s problems can be traced back to a disturbing lack of faith in the younger generation.”

But isn’t there an increasing consensus on grassroots social media that neoliberal government policies of the last thirty years are to blame for irrevocably leading us to this point of critical failure, where the very substance of the multiverse is threatened with annihilation by wage stagnation and an untenable housing market leading to unrealistic work expectations?

“If only it were that simple,” she responds. “We’re doing everything we can to encourage participation despite the economic downturn, including state-funded glossolalia lessons and mandatory flagellation breaks for government employees. But we can’t force a free soul to act.”

Two days later we’re standing on the windy beach at Chatham, Massachusetts for the annual Sunken Memorial, facing the steel-blue Atlantic where Hggibbia once stood. Senator Halton leads a group of representatives through the Silent Evocations of the Eighteen Forms, their dark trench coats snapping in the wind like ravens fighting over scraps. Two assistants have to help the elderly Health Secretary Johnson through the movements, sometimes physically lifting him to position his limbs correctly.

Fifty yards away, behind a mesh fence and a police line, there’s a protest taking place. I’m not surprised to see Ace at the front, leading a chant of WE’RE NOT INSANE, WE’RE JUST MAD, WE BLAME YOU FOR A  WORLD GONE BAD.”It’s all a distraction!” they tell me to a chorus of agreement from their fellow protestors. “They’re using the myth of the Elder Dark to stop you noticing their corruption!”

“Yeah,” interjects another protestor, her pink hair straggling over a loose-fit chunky sweater. “Like, did you know they used this stuff to justify some super racist ideas? Most people can’t spot the subtext now, but if you read the old stuff they basically claimed Jews were in league with the Watchers Just Beyond, right? It’s unbelievable!”

Ace picks up the argument, a real bitterness in their voice. “They like, try and handwave that racism away now, ya know, claim you have to understand it in the historical context, but it just proves how they fit it to their agenda at the time. It’s all bullshit. You can’t trust them.”

I go back to see Bob Rawlins. He’s invited me up for the traditional orgy that marks the Approach of Winterdark, more commonly called the fall equinox. He prepares for the night by stripping naked, beating his tattooed skin raw with a branch of Hggibbian driftwood, and pulling a tight red hood on that covers his eyes.

He offers me the branch and a spare hood, but I respectfully decline.

There’s fifty or more participants gathered at the edge of town for the ritual, all naked bar that same red hood. It’s meant to evoke a feeling of insignificance, reminding supplicants they are only anonymous flesh to the Watchers Just Beyond, but the effect is undercut somewhat by small town America: everyone is easily identifiable from their voice and body shape, and Bob chats casually about DIY projects and school district elections as the sun sets.

Once dusk grows dark and a chill settles in, Bob climbs onto a flame-lit stage set up for the event, reminds everyone to stick around for the barbecue afterwards, then begins the Rituals of Unending Vigilance. I find myself talking to a late arrival: Eric Rawlins—Bob’s son.

“I’m only back for the weekend,” he explains, shuffling uncomfortably. “It means a lot to Dad that I get involved.” He’s eschewed the naked dedication of his father and kept his jeans on, a single Screaming Gshvaddath tattooed in Shifting Ink just below his red hood, dancing wildly in contrast to Eric’s diffidence. 

Presumably his father is grooming him to continue the family tradition?

“Yeah, he’s really enthusiastic about the whole thing. Dad’s worried that if I’m not ready to continue his work the next time his back gives out then the Elder Dark will flood the world and shackle humanity to an eternal yoke of madness while he waits on his pain relief prescription. He honestly believes he’s the only one holding it back right now.”

Does Eric think participation is down because people are coming to terms with the history of it and stepping away? I repeat some of the theories I heard at the rally.

“Yeah, I’ve heard those ideas too. I agree with them, to be honest, with the people saying the Worship has racist underpinnings, but don’t tell Dad. He thinks the texts are sacrosanct, and it’s like, if you criticise them, you’re criticising him. But there’s a growing online movement to embrace the original truth of the Unknowable Scriptures, peeling back the layers of human influence and prejudice. We’re all just meat to the Watchers after all, regardless of our skin or beliefs, beneath the notice of an unfathomable Universe made of madness and unending time. I can show you some really interesting Subreddits after this.”

On stage, Bob is in an awkward crab position, thrusting his flaccid penis towards the night sky and howling in ecstasy. Blood drips from his back where a bed of nails beneath him pierces his flesh over and over; volunteers in hi-viz jackets wait at the edge of the stage with antiseptic cream, stood before signs reminding participants to PRACTICE SAFE SUPPLICATION.

Eric looks anywhere but the stage as the crowd shrieks back, lacerating their own flesh with a variety of pointed implements. There are spiked paddles in ornately carved mahogany, hand-sharpened sticks of blasted elm, and one Hello Kitty cat o’ nine tails.

“Dad worries too much, to be honest,” says Eric. “I’ve met a lot of people at college, and at the end of the day people are decent. They do what they can when they can, even if it’s just carving Escherian shapes into their avocados at breakfast. We’re not gonna let the world run to shit with shambling horrors at the bus stop and tentacles blocking up the plumbing. We’ve gotta live here too, after all.”

Eric finally responds to his father’s exhortations with a self-conscious howl, and pricks his thumb with a pocket knife. Bob looks out from the stage, and spots his son; he lifts a hand in greeting, then, unbalanced, slips and lands heavily on the bed of nails. His scream of pain is answered faithfully by the crowd, but Eric runs forward and clambers on stage. He eases his father off the nails and they limp to the side, where a volunteer frantically unpacks a first aid kit.

A brief yet intense exchange follows. The body language is clear: Bob wants Eric to finish leading the worship. The crowd is wavering, their flagellation tools drooping like their middle-aged bodies. I see the moment Eric takes the burden on: his back straightens, his jaw clenches, his shoulders square. He’s doing a good impression of being ready for this, and I find myself hoping it convinces Bob.

Eric strips off and positions himself over the nails. He picks up the chant perfectly from where his father left off, closing out the ceremony with vigour, athleticism and rather more—shall we say—rigidity than his father could manage. 

Off to the side, Bob stands with his legs wide as his bleeding scrotum is gingerly nursed by the volunteer paramedic. He’s removed his red hood, and he watches Eric lambaste the crowd with a final chant of “Yhiu! Kaftagh falln!” and receive the answer of “Engibbigth valectia!”

His face shines with paternal pride.

© 2019 by Matt Dovey

Author’s Note: If you can’t spot the inspiration for this story, I envy you. I can’t go a week without seeing some new article blaming millennials for some natural shift in an evolving world (my favourite from my research: millennials are killing bar soap. WHO EVEN CARES). That said, it was actually reading another parody article that triggered the idea: Why Aren’t Baby Boomers Eating Pho? Given that Lovecraft pastiche is never far from my mind anyway, it only took another hour for the first draft of this to flood out of my fingertips in some indescribable frenzy, typing like a man possessed, suddenly granted ideas beyond my mortal comprehension. My mind has never been the same since, scarred by the knowledge of what lies beyond my temporal horizon: younger generations, acting differently from me. Truly, a cosmic horror to chill the soul.

Matt Dovey is very tall, very English, and most likely drinking a cup of tea right now. He has a scar on his arm from a ritual performed unto the Watchers Just Beyond, imploring them for the boon of great knowledge, but all he got were the lyrics to Dashboard Confessional’s watershed album The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most. He now lives in a quiet market town in rural England with his wife & three children, and despite being a writer he still hasn’t found the right words to fully express the delight he finds in this wonderful arrangement.

His surname rhymes with “Dopey” but any other similarities to the dwarf are purely coincidental. He’s an associate editor at PodCastle, a member of Codex and Villa Diodati, and has fiction out and forthcoming all over the place, including all four Escape Artists podcasts, Flash Fiction Online and Daily SF. You can keep up with it all at mattdovey.com, or follow along on Twitter and Facebook both as @mattdoveywriter.

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DP Fiction #29B: “The Shadow Over His Mouth” by Aidan Doyle

Greetings From Transylvania!

Posted by Barry Lovecraft
7th July 2016.

I’m in vampire country! That’s right, I’m in Brasov, in Romania. Now that I’ve finished university, I’ve decided it’s time to take my food blog on the road.

I was supposed to start my adventure in Paris, but a storm meant my flight was diverted to Transylvania. The airline staff said it would be at least a week before flights to Paris resumed, so I’m going to make the most of my time in Eastern Europe.

Brasov has its own version of a Hollywood-style sign on the hill overlooking the city. It also has some really narrow alleyways that make Melbourne’s laneways look big. Nowhere to hide if the vampires come after you. 🙂

I had somehow gained the impression that Eastern European hostels are full of beautiful women trying to lure foreigners to gruesomely erotic deaths. Instead I found myself sharing a dorm room with a creepy old Dutch guy, who must have been more than fifty years old. The hideous actuality of his non-Euclidean snoring kept me awake all night.

Yesterday morning I went on a tour organized by the hostel. We visited Bran Castle, the so-called Dracula Castle, but it actually has little to do with Vlad Tepes, who inspired the Dracula legend. There were a couple of Spanish guys on the tour who had each brought along a set of plastic red vampire teeth to wear when posing for photos. The Dutch guy glared at them and kept muttering that nosferatu was no laughing matter.

I had arranged to meet the Spanish guys to go out for drinks in the evening, but they didn’t turn up. When I checked their dorm room, all of their stuff was gone, except for the red plastic teeth lying on top of their pillows. They could have at least told me they were checking out.

This morning I took the train to Sighisoara and had lunch at Casa Dracula, the house in which Vlad Tepes was born. It’s now a tourist restaurant. I know some food bloggers who refuse to eat in restaurants where anything on the menu is described with fewer than three adjectives, but I appreciate simple food. I had a steak skewered on a little wooden stake and covered in tomato sauce (ketchup for my North American readers). The meat was bloodier than I prefer and the sauce had an eldritch tang I couldn’t identify, but it’s not every day you get to eat a steak on a stake in Dracula’s house.

The Dutch guy was in the restaurant as well and glared at me while I was Instagramming the steak. Old people don’t understand the importance of documenting your meals. Unfortunately there was something wrong with my phone and the photos all came out blurry.

When I got back to Brasov, I went on a vampire walking tour. The Dutch guy was there again, but at least the guide was super cute. She had these indescribably quasi-hypnotic cerulean eyes that I could have stared at for immeasurable eons. Halfway through the tour, two guys in cloaks leaped from the roof of a building and landed next to the Dutch guy. Before anyone could even take a photo, the cloaks had dragged Dutchie down an alley. I wish the guide had given us some warning, so we had a chance to video the whole thing. I was expecting the Dutch guy to join us later, but he didn’t return. I guess the tour company must have planted him on the walk.

When I got back to the hostel all of the Dutch guy’s stuff was gone. I was pleased about the idea of getting a good night’s sleep, but I discovered an envelope and a book hidden under my pillow. The envelope was addressed to me and contained a letter penned in scarlet ink.

Dear Barry,
Dark forces are gathering. You must embrace your family’s legacy. Only you can stop an unholy alliance forming between Eastern Europe
‘s vampires and the protoplasmic fish people. If I fail in my mission to train you, use this book as your guide. 

The letter was unsigned.

The book bore the title, Eldritch Planet: A Guide to the World’s Arcane Secrets (Fifth Edition Completely Revised and Updated) and promised to reveal the places other tourists don’t go. It was bound in paper recycled from health food restaurant menus and exuded a blasphemous odor of stale kale. It contained reviews of exclusive hotels hidden deep in the Carpathian Mountains, antediluvian ruined temples untouched by mortal man for centuries, and restaurants with food so indescribably tasty that a single bite would drive lesser food bloggers insane. I found an entry on a restaurant in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia that the book claimed was the world’s greatest seafood restaurant. I searched online and couldn’t discover any mention of Eldritch Planet or the restaurant. A restaurant that other people haven’t written about is a food blogger’s dream come true. It was then that I realized what my true destiny was. I will visit this restaurant, brave the monotonously aquatic nature of its menu, and upload photos of its meals to social media. As usual, I’d appreciate it if you share this post with your friends and family.

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Greetings From Bucharest

Posted by Barry Lovecraft
10 July 2016

I’m in Bucharest now, heading south towards Macedonia. (Would you believe one of my exes broke up with me because I didn’t prefix the country’s name with Former Yugoslav Republic of?) This time I’m sharing a room with a wide-eyed German man who looks as though he escaped from the set of Hipsters Gone Wild, a creature more beard than man.

I’ve only stayed in a few hostels, but I’ve already met more than my fair share of eccentric characters. Presented for your edification is the:

Youth Hostel Wandering Monster Table
Roll 1d8
1 – A German complaining about the hostel’s lack of cleanliness.
2 – A bemused Japanese who speaks little English.
3 – An Australian who wants to tell you about his fuckin’ sick pub crawl.
4 – An American worshipping at the altar of Rick Steves.
5 – A Canadian who has covered every inch of their luggage in Canadian flags.
6 – A young woman terrified to talk to anyone because she has watched one too many Liam Neeson films.
7 – A guy who refuses to eat at any restaurant mentioned in a tourist guide because he wants an “authentic” experience.
8 – People having sex in the communal showers.

I wanted to get some sleep, but the manic German almost had a fit when he saw my copy of Eldritch Planet.

“Where did you get that book?” he hissed.

“A friend gave it to me,” I told him.

“It’s a trap!” the German pronounced. “They’re sending you to your doom.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You don’t have any idea what’s going on, do you? You haven’t peered beyond the veil that separates the realm of man from the beasts that lurk in the shadows. Everything changed after some of the Eastern European countries changed their immigration laws. Now most foreigners need a letter of invitation before they can get a visa.”

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

“They’re inviting visitors into the country. That renders them powerless against vampires. The whole of Eastern Europe is crawling with bloodsuckers. And now they’re trying to make an alliance with the deep ones. They’ve decided that keeping forbidden texts hidden is counterproductive when they want more accursed creatures to walk the earth. Their goal is to spread dark and terrible knowledge as far as possible, so they’re trying to take control of people with social media influence.”

The German was quite mad, but it was nice to be recognized as a blogger of some import.

“They’re going to lure you to Lake Ohrid, one of the oldest and deepest lakes in Europe,” the German said. I had kept my destination a secret. I was going to ask how he knew, but the swarthy hostel manager came into our room. “There’s a phone call for you,” he said to the German. The German followed him out of the room.

I waited ten minutes for him to come back, but then a wild ululation echoed throughout the hostel.

I dashed out of my room. A Korean man emerged from the bathroom, looking shocked. I’ve encountered some unspeakably eldritch hostel bathrooms in my travels, but I suspected something more was going on.

“He’s dead,” the Korean man said.

The swarthy hostel manager appeared. “Go back to your rooms, everyone. I’ll clean up the mess.”

It turns out Bucharest has a bad problem with wild dogs. A dog got into the hostel and killed the German guy while he was taking a dump. What a way to go!

I went back to my room and made sure the door was shut and the window locked. I didn’t get any sleep that night. I kept hearing squeaking sounds in the darkness, as though there were rats in the walls.

I made sure to give the hostel a one-star review on Trip Advisor. From now on I’m going to stay in hotels, even if it does blow my budget.

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Greetings from Lake Ohrid

Posted by Barry Lovecraft
10 July 2016

Traveling by bus in Eastern Europe feels as though you are crossing an unimaginable abyss of time and space, but I finally made it to Lake Ohrid and checked into a hotel in a lakeside village.

I went for a walk along the shore in the late afternoon and looked for the restaurant. I tried asking some of the locals for directions, but they muttered at me in a primitive, guttural language and hurried on their way. It’s not good enough. These days if you want to attract tourists, people need to speak English.

I persevered and eventually found The House of Fin. The restaurant was housed in a rudely fashioned Cyclopean building, but Eldritch Planet claims it’s the world’s greatest seafood restaurant. Since it was early and I was the only customer, I got a table with a great view of the lake.

The waiter was a pale-skinned man with bulbous eyes and an elongated head. A most peculiar odor clung to him, as though he had doused himself in cheap cologne, but at least he spoke English. He handed me three menus – the main menu, the wine list and the squid menu. I’m not a big fan of tentacles, so I focused on the main menu.

“Is it legal to eat penguin in Macedonia?” I asked.

The waiter nodded. “Our friends from Antarctica bring us the freshest penguins. They are lightly steamed and served with a garnish of kale.”

Goddamn kale has even made it to Macedonia. “You have toad in the hole on the menu? Doesn’t that have sausages in it?”

“That’s the British version.” The waiter smiled. “Our toad in the hole is more authentic.”

“What do you recommend?” I asked.

“The king prawns in yellow sauce are my personal favorite,” the waiter replied. “The jellied eel is superlative, and of course one must try our local specialty, the deepfish.”

“There aren’t any prices on the menus,” I pointed out. I hate being ripped off in tourist scams.

“Our prices are most reasonable,” the waiter assured me.

I would have preferred actual numbers, but I decided to trust him. In my travels I’ve learned that the more you are open to people, the more they will give you in return. “I’ll have the eel and the deepfish.”

It was a good decision. The jellied eel’s flesh was so tender and so bursting with flavor that explosions of indescribable ecstasy ricocheted around my mouth.

The deepfish was served on a bed of lettuce and glowed with a pale, green luminescence. “Why is the fish glowing?”

“Our chef’s special sauce,” the waiter replied.

Other bloggers would have fled in abject terror at effulgent fish, but I’m brave enough to try things beyond their limited comprehension. I took a bite of the deepfish.

The flavor was vaster and more primal than anything experienced by man since the decadent Gods of Taste walked upon this earth. My mouth achieved a state of transcendence and I was transported beyond the realm of food bloggers to a time before the Age of Social Media. I dwelled a long time in that place, savoring each bite and the unbridled flavor that coursed through my newly potent body.

“We are going to prepare a special dessert for you,” the waiter said after I finished the deepfish.

The deepfish had been so filling. “I couldn’t possibly eat another thing.”

“You must try it,” the waiter said. “It will blow your mind. It will take some time to prepare, so please be patient.”

“Of course.”

I’m so excited about my discovery that I wrote this post while I’m waiting for dessert. The food here deserves to be shared with the world. I might even be able to get a book deal. Barry Lovecraft Presents The Secrets of the House of Fin.

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Posted by Barry Lovecraft

10 July 2016


I’m locked in the bathroom. Please, you have to send help!

The waiter wheeled out a huge coffin-like covered dish. I thought there was no way I was going to be able to eat all of what was under there. Then he opened the lid.

The image of the creature beneath has been forever seared into my mind. I fear I shall never experience a single moment of peace ever again, knowing there are things like that in our world.

The squid-like creature was a mass of writhing tentacles bathed in an unearthly eldritch light and emitted a malodorous, pungent, fetid odor. Most terrible of all was its swarthy human-like face. Its unutterably hideous eyes stared at me with a malignant purpose. A vast alien intelligence, against which no spiritual firewall could hope to withstand, probed the inner reaches of my mind.

The pustule-covered tentacles reached for me.

I leaped from my chair and dashed to the bathroom, locking myself within.

There is a terrible knocking at the door. I fear my time on this earth is almost at an end. Please share this post with the relevant law enforcement agencies.

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Melbourne Gathering

Posted by Barry Lovecraft
10 August 2016

I’m sorry for the silence and the website problems. There was an issue with my host, but that’s been resolved. I’m back in Melbourne again. Some of you might think travel has changed me, but I’m still the same Barry Lovecraft you knew. Travel opens your mind to new possibilities and lets you perceive formerly hidden realities. The only reason I look a little different is that I now have a mustache. Any suggestions that it is because I have something to hide will be treated with the contempt they deserve. I’m going to prepare a special banquet to share my newfound knowledge of the culinary arts. A feast that will never be forgotten. Please tell all your friends and family that they need to attend. I must gather all my followers.

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Story © 2017 by Aidan Doyle

Art © 2017 by Sonya Craig


Author’s Note: I was having a discussion with a friend about how there were so many Lovecraft parodies around.  The conversation later moved on to the topic of restaurant reviews and I decided that a Lovecraftian food blogger would make an interesting character.


Aidan Doyle is an Australian writer and computer programmer. His short stories have been published in places such as Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, and Fireside. He has been shortlisted for the Aurealis, Ditmar, and XYZZY awards. He has visited more than 100 countries and his experiences include teaching English in Japan, interviewing ninjas in Bolivia and going ten-pin bowling in North Korea.





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